This article from Today's Guardian Newspaper and talks about the HIV/AIDS plight of the African female (apparently, we're an endangered species). Do you think he's overstating the effects on the African female (for example, is the stigma of AIDS greater for women)? Should more be spent on HIV/AIDS programmes specifically for women? How should our government go about prioritizing funding for HIV/AIDS amidst other problems like education, public health, the Niger Delta, etc? Thoughts please...
WITH increasing and intense efforts at contemplating and executing interventions the world over with regards to checkmating the spread of HIV/AIDS and other pandemics such as tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, and so on and so forth, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there exists a special group that could appropriately be referred to as an endangered species. This unique group is spread out across the African continent. You find them in all the countries that constitute the continent. They are the feminine gender represented here as the African female.
A survey of the African continent gives one a gory depiction of the tragedy the African female is subjected to by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur region in Sudan, Somalia, Congo, South Africa, Kenya and other Southern African countries are flashpoints as per the harrowing effects of this pandemic. Statistics reveal the no-win situation in which the feminine gender finds itself. Sero-prevalence rates in various countries indicate that women are more affected by HIV/AIDS.
The African female by virtue of her socio-economic situation finds herself more prone to be infected than the male. She is bothered for sex at the point of seeking employment. There is workplace sexual harassment. As a student, sex is demanded of her in the school for her to get her scores. Even in a normal heterosexual relationship, she is required to give vent to her professed love by mutual self-giving, which almost always translates into physical sexual acts. Socio-cultural practices such as female circumcision, tattooing, early marriages, and so on and so forth, expose her to infection. The above and the fact of the female genitalia being more or else a receptacle, and thus vulnerable, increases her chances of infection, including HIV/AIDS.
Infected females are hardly able to access care and support facilities and opportunities due to stigmatisation and other hiccups placed by society. On the other hand, antiretrovirals are costly and hoarded even when they are provided and subsidised by governments, international development agencies, NGOs, and so on and so forth. Illiteracy, poverty, political insensitivity, and sundry other factors coalesce to give away the African female with regards to HIV/AIDS.
Were we as a people to demonstrate some conscientiousness towards the checkmating of this pandemic, especially as it affects the women of Africa, there would be an orchestrated response in terms of providing funds for interventions, awareness creation and sensitisation, accessible care and support programmes, strategic capacity building initiatives for organisations working in this area, de-stigmatisation campaigns, enlightenment of both government officials, care-givers, NGOs and the general public. Added to this would be specialised funding for research work on unravelling a cure for this voracious pandemic.
The urgency of these conscientious interventions cannot be overflogged, as the tragedy engendered by this pandemic is critically obvious. The continent is awash with the diverse ramifications of its horrendous effects and it would imply hypocritical denial and criminal neglect of facts not to admit its reality and need for an urgent response. The response needs not be sporadic or unilateral...Corporate bodies, governments, development partners and private individuals all have a role to play to save the African female nay girl child from imminent annihilation courtesy of HIVAIDS.
Odeku is Executive Director of Development Platform for Africa, a Port Harcourt-based non-governmental organisation working on HIV/AIDs interventions.